June 02, 2008

Here's a Gimmick: Make Your Base Set Better

I'm on the road this week in the Pacific Northwest. So without complete and steady access to a computer, the first thing I did in my brief Internet session today was check out Stale Gum to see what's been on Chris Harris' mind about cards lately. After reading his complete rundown on Topps gimmick cards, I agreed with his assessment: these cards are bullshit.

Sometime last year after Topps rolled out their Derek Jeter "error" card, I warned that Topps should watch out or people would start to wonder about their motive surrounding the sudden appearance of other high-profile "error" cards. Well, patterns have developed. In 2006 we had Alex Gordon. 2007 brought us Jeter. And now for 2008 we're awash in a veritable tidal wave of errors, variations and gimmicks. It's that last word (gimmicks) that's really a slap in the face of the collector.

Maybe the card companies see the gimmick cards as public relations efforts within the base set, or loss leaders (like relic and autographed cards) to help sell packs. I don't know. What I do know is that their presence is tiresome, relentless and completely predictable. But are they fun? Sure, they're fun, but shouldn't the fun be in the base set? Shouldn't every card be fun?

I'm going to re-issue my warning: Card companies Topps and Upper Deck should know better, by now, of falling into the gimmick trap. You need to sell more cards? Make the core of your base set better.

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